Oh boy. First the background on this read. I first picked up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies several years ago, probably around the time it came out. I very quickly put it back down again after reading only the first paragraph. If you’ve read some of my previous reviews then you may be aware that I am a huge Jane Austen fan and that Pride and Prejudice is one of my all time favorite books. So when I picked up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and found that the entire first paragraph was just the first paragraph of Austen’s original novel only reworded to be about zombies I was immediately exasperated, and a little bit angry, and returned the book to the library. The only reason I even gave the book another try was because of the movie Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
A little bit about the movie. I went to see it with a couple of friends expecting to laugh at how bad it was, but I actually really liked it. The movie knew that it was ridiculous and worked that to its advantage so that you ended up with a really funny movie. It was interesting to watch because all the violence and zombies allowed a lot of the unstated tension and undercurrents of the novel to come out physically. I thought that was really interesting (and funny) and I wondered how much of that was just the movie and how much might be present in the book as well. I also figured that my literary taste has developed and widened significantly since the last time I tried to read the book, and now I might be able to appreciate it for what it is. Well, what I’ve learned after reading the book is that the movie was just the perfect balance of the violence and zombie ridiculousness from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and everything wonderful from the original book, whereas the actual book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is just… well, its just really bad. Fair warning, there are going to be a lot of spoilers in this post because I cannot fully express my feelings about this book without referencing a number of specific things. Lets get started.
Having done no research on the subject, if I had to guess about Seth Grahame-Smith’s method for writing this book I would say that he took the original Pride and Prejudice and read through it thinking “hey! I could put some zombies in this part!” and then, “Hmm, nope, this part doesn’t need zombies, let’s leave it as it is.” Literally the entire book is just Austen’s novel with certain passages rewritten to incorporate the zombie apocalypse. Now, I know what your thinking, or at least what I was thinking for the first few pages, which is that this could be really interesting if done well. But it wasn’t. Done well I mean. The problem is that Grahame-Smith didn’t seem to put a lot of thought into how his different zombie bits would fit together, rather focusing on how he could make it as gory and ridiculous as possible. There were a lot of inconsistency in the novel, even place names changed at times. And there were bigger things, like what a huge deal it was that Elizabeth Bennet’s training was supposed to be sub-par because she trained in China instead of in Japan like all of the classy people, and yet, for some reason, despite her pride in her Chinese masters and training, one of her favorite weapons is a katana. Which is, like, the quintessential Japanese weapon. What’s up with the Seth Grahame-Smith?
But it wasn’t even the little things and lack of consistency that made this novel a complete bust for me. The biggest thing was that Grahame-Smith completely corrupted Austen’s wonderful characters. In the movie I felt that they did a pretty good job of incorporating their zombie fighting and extensive training into Darcy and Elizabeth’s characters. In the books they’re pretty much just blood thirsty, brutal, violent, killers. I mean let me just sum it up this way. When Elizabeth Bennet killed a ninja (because, yes, their are ninjas in this book), punched her fist through its rib cage, ripped out its heart and then took a bite of it I was pretty much done. I mean I get that the novel was supposed to be ridiculous, but there are still limits, especially when you’re messing with such a well loved classic.
Now, to be fair, the movie did do some strange things with Wickham, the zombies, and the whole apocalypse angle that were really weird and that the book didn’t do at all, but I can still say with absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is one of those very rare instances of a movie being better than the book. Especially with Matt Smith playing Mr. Collins, he was perfect and whenever they do another real Pride and Prejudice remake I will be really disappointed if he isn’t cast as Mr. Collins again.
If it shocks you at this point that I only rate this book 1/5 then you really haven’t been paying attention, or you just skipped to the end. Anyway, my favorite part of reading this book was actually picking out all of the really bad stuff because I was excited to write about it in this review. There was probably once or twice where I got a little bit excited about the possibilities Grahame-Smith brought up with his zombies, but they never developed into anything worthwhile and I can’t now even remember what any of them are, so clearly they didn’t leave much of an impression. Read this book if you want to laugh at something completely ridiculous and then go read Pride and Prejudice again.